As some of you know, I volunteer. A lot. For many non-profit organizations. And one government: the City of Toronto, as a Live Green Toronto Volunteer. What do we do? Spread knowledge about environmental issues and promote the widespread use of Live Green programs to take positive steps towards a cleaner, healthier future for all residents. Every few weeks, volunteers attend two-hour training sessions where we learn about climate change, energy and water efficiency, waste reductions strategies, transportation issues, local food, parks and forestry plans, and a wide range of Live Green environmental initiatives that help Torontonians green their lives. In 2011 alone, hundreds of us contributed over 4,000 hours at outreach events all across the city, including the Live Green Toronto Festival and Community Environment Days that I have previously blogged about.
Since joining the program in 2009, I have made friends, networked, gained experience that helped land me my first paying job in the environmental sector, learned about really important environmental topics, and met and engaged hundreds of my neighbours at community events. The Toronto Environment Office, which manages the Live Green Toronto Volunteers program, throws us an appreciation party every December to show thanks for the hours we've put in over the year, and it's always a joy to have be treated to a nice dinner at the third floor ballroom in historic St. Lawrence Hall (click here for a much better photo of the ballroom's elegance).
This year was extra special because after putting in over 40 hours of outreach and attending over 20 hours of training (closer to 60 and 40 in my case), I have officially graduated from the program and took part in the ceremony at the party tonight. Above is a group shot of nearly 20 of us who reached this milestone in 2011. While I will continue to volunteer at events and learn more about the environmental issues affecting residents in this big city, I feel very proud of my accomplishments thus far and am so delighted to have my hard work recognized at this fun event. Best of all, the gifts included not only a beautifully designed certificate, but also a Live Green Toronto messenger bag made of recycled plastic bottles. The bag contained a graduation pin made of natural materials as well as a set of bamboo cutlery for eating on-the-go! What thoughtful, useful, practical gifts!
I only wish programs like this existed in every city. It's win-win-win, with municipal staff supported by volunteers, volunteers gaining valuable knowledge and experience, and the public learning many ways to green their lives. I'm so proud to be a part of it!